Monday, August 31, 2015

Wet Hot Oregon Summer: Part Two

On the second day I was in Oregon, my mom and I went to the Oregon Zoo. This was something we'd both been planning for at least a couple of months, ever since we independently approached each other saying we'd been thinking about how much we wanted to go together! This was a really special thing to me, because the Oregon Zoo has been special to us for only my entire life, but we'd never been together in the time since I've been an adult.

To tell you how much the zoo was important to us: we had a membership when I was young and we'd go very frequently. When the zoo's star lion died when I was in grade school, my dad apparently told us before I left for school one morning and caused a giant meltdown (oops!). I also attended Zoo Camp for two years, and it was a really important part of my childhood. It was one of the only camps I ever attended that didn't reduce me to a ball of useless social anxiety.

It was a ton of fun to be there with my mom, even though much has changed. Also, the Oregon Zoo is doing some great conservation work, particularly with California Condors, a cause very close to my heart, and I absolutely freaked out when we got to see condors in person. It is my first time actually seeing condors in person, and it was really special. Also: bald eagles (not my first time, but that never gets old).

Here are some images from our trip to the zoo. These are all from my phone; the DSLR shots (it was really fun to take my camera to the zoo, even though I hadn't brought a telephoto lens with me!) are on Facebook, but I don't think I'll post them here.


Gift shop stuff:

I managed to escape from the gift shop without buying anything. Amazing. A first!

This was a great day, really good mother-daughter time, and it really is nice that the Oregon Zoo isn't as large as something like San Diego, where you could be there all day. We took a few hours, but just a few hours. It was enough. And it's great to see my childhood zoo involved in good conservation work. It helps me feel a little better about zoos in general.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wet Hot Oregon Summer: Part One

Beaverton | tonight 
This morning I flew to Oregon. 

This place ... this place always makes me want to write long, rambling verses. This place is like a tribal drumbeat in my heart. Is this how people always feel about home? Only when they love it? Only when they miss it? Oregon holds power over me. Spiritual power. 

But to be clearer, more practical: I came here because I really wanted to go home and visit my family and friends, who I hadn't seen in more than two years. But I'm also going because this year I am participating in the legendary Hood to Coast relay. With my best friend from high school, no less. 

Back up: I had never thought of running a relay type race before last year. Last year, Stefanie and her husband participated in HTC and it sounded like an incredible amount of fun. Stefanie has always been a running motivator for me -- she began running around the same time I did, and she has accomplished way "more" than I have if you're calling it a competition, which it's totally not, and I never want to think of it that way, since running is something you do to compete with yourself, and to share with your friends. Anyway, I try to use that friendly competition/motivation to keep me hungry, and it has. After last year's HTC, I decided I really wanted to do it someday. But then I injured my hip and the nightmare of that nearly 6-month injury made me realize I could be done with running forever. It actually wasn't until right after I returned to running this year that Stefanie approached me about an open spot on her team for this year's relay. I said yes immediately, because I don't want to say no to something I want to do just because of the unknown, or because it scares me, or anything else. I just said yes -- for so many reasons. 

Over time, those reasons have become clearer to me. On top of the challenge of the race -- this will be the first time, the very first time, that Stefanie and I have run together. We've been friends since 1996, and our friendship is of the type that is rare and forever and special and all those things. I have two of those friends in my life, with whom the bond will never be broken for any reason. I am so grateful for this relationship in my life. It will be so special to do this with her. 

Also -- I have come to realize that as a displaced Oregonian, running this race is really personally meaningful to me. Here's what my heart actually looks like: 

So ... I mean ... really. Doing this race is something I need to do as an Oregonian. It will heal my heart, my heart that has lived in California for 17 years now, in ways that are impossible for me to describe in words. My homesick Oregon heart. I need to do this. It is a rite of passage.

As the date has approached (the race begins on Friday) I've suffered from several really stupid physical injuries that have made my preparation more challenging. Last Thursday I tripped during a training run in Berkeley and skinned my knees and palms, and bruised my right kneecap. The swelling was really terrible for a couple of days. I've spent all of the days since then trying to recuperate. Today, I came to Oregon and I was feeling really good about my recovery. So of course, tonight I went to pick up Thai food with my mother, and I went to open the door for her and the door got stuck in my right toe, taking a huge chunk out of the tip. Turns out -- toe injuries like this result in BLOOD EVERYWHERE. This was a really traumatic and shitty incident for me this evening and I've spend all night trying to mentally/emotionally/physically deal with it. Fortunately, it really does seem like a shallow wound -- just one that produced a ton of blood that freaked me and my mom out. I've been resting it and taking good care of it tonight. I have until Friday. Until Friday.

I'm sitting here right now, 11pm, on the floor in "my" room at my mom's house at home. I remember being 18 and coming here for Thanksgiving and feeling so alone and alienated and misunderstood and like I had to write journal entries that quoted Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (yes I really did that). Even though I sit here having had an entire bottle of wine over the course of the night, with skinned and bruised knees and a cut up toe -- I can tell you that I sit here happy tonight, 33 years old, spending time with my family and my friends and my state that I love so very much.

It's so good to be back here. I needed to be back here. Oregon, Beaverton, Portland, I love you. I've been fully aware of how much I missed you, and nothing is quite like breathing in your summer air.

I am a better person in San Francisco when I am able to come home and rejuvenate. ♥

Remembering that I am actually, truly on vacation is also a good idea. Almost all of the trips I've taken in 2015 have been not vacation and I've gotten used to the idea of trips being utilitarian. I keep telling myself to check my work email. No. This is a vacation. This is for me to remember the great things about myself and my happiness and to challenge myself and recharge and be the best version of Amber I can be. And do absolutely nothing if that is what the moment calls for (early this week, anyway). It's amazing how much I have to remind myself of this. There is no need for productivity. I need to let up on myself. This is time for my heart to rest, away from my normal routines.

Until I get to the race, of course. Then I'm going to kick some ass.

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